Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Accused policemen lose legal gamble to hide their identities

Charges:  David Power
Charges: Harry McMahon

Two police officers accused of perverting the course of justice have failed in a bid to keep their identities secret.

Harry McMahon, David Power and Thomas Geoffrey Ellis are alleged to have acted illegally by removing contents from a locker inside Cookstown police station.

Two sought court anonymity orders which would have banned the media from identifying them ahead of a decision on whether they will face trial.

One of the three officers withdrew his application ahead of yesterday's hearing.

The Belfast Telegraph along with other media outlets opposed the imposition of such a gagging order.

At Dungannon Magistrates Court yesterday, District Judge John Meehan rejected the officers' application.

The judge said he was tempted to quote lyrics from the Kenny Rodgers song The Gambler.

"You got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them," he said, adding: "The application is rejected."

Among the reasons for applying the order were claims by the men that publication of their details would put their personal security at risk.

However, in his judgment, Judge Meehan said: "In the instant case, a risk assessment was requested from the PSNI in respect of all three defendants with respect to publishing their names, station and photographs.

"The response was that the police had no knowledge of any increased risk occasioned for any of the defendants as a result of the publicity given to the case."

All three men face charges of perverting the course of justice at the PSNI station in July 2012.

The PSNI has confirmed two of the three officers left the force in January.

The third has been suspended pending the outcome of criminal and misconduct proceedings.

The allegations surround the locker of Mr Ellis (49).

No details of the case against the men have been outlined in court hearings to date.

Court papers show, however, that Mr Ellis, who faces two charges, is alleged to have aided, abetted, counselled or procured Mr McMahon to remove items from his locker. Mr Ellis is also accused of conspiring with another to clear the locker between July 22 and July 25, 2012.

His address was given to the court as Cookstown police station. Mr McMahon (45), who was based in Dungannon, is accused of removing the locker contents on July 25.

Power (45), who has left the force and whose address had been given previously as Sprucefield PSNI station, is accused of conspiring with another to pervert the course of justice between July 22 and July 25, 2012.

Lawyers for the three men, and one representing the media, were present for the yesterday's hearing..

A PSNI spokewoman said she was unable to release details of that investigation, but said: "PSNI can confirm that two of the officers were dealt with on January 10 and are no longer serving in the PSNI. The third officer remains suspended from duty pending the outcome of criminal and misconduct proceedings."

The case was adjourned until later this month.

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